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How the zazous in France their middle finger emerged to the world with fashion & music

Decadent dandies, kortgerokte women, swinging jazz and rebellious dance competitions: this subculture gave the Vichyregime lick on the piece. Long-haired werkschuw rig avant la lettre.

Zazou © Gf

T-shirts with ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, ‘Make Love, Not Walls’, ‘No Time To Waste’ and ‘Nasty Woman’ are in addition to fun sloganmode also a political or ideological coming out of the carrier. Items with rainbows, pins, or patches, berets, scarves, and other accessories can just as easily be a statement form. In the year 2017, this kind of statements, due to the turbulent political times, back in fashion. What you put is not the same for everyone is important, but it can be a clear message to the world. More than seventy years ago, it was the youth that understood, and showed the Parisian young people that they snakten to peace and pleasure rather than of war and hatred.

© gf

During the Vichyregime, that collaboreerde with the nazis and fascists in the early forties, there was a subculture among the young people who we now know as zazou. Both TC Matic as the Pet Shop Boys wrote songs about the rebellious subculture that with her clothing style and wanted to dansfeestjes the nazisympathisanten against the chest and struck it. Although they went against nazism, were the zazous not connected to the resistance. The young people wanted to actually know little of politics and were just their meaning, without the rules to follow of the conservative government.

The zazous lived mainly in Paris, were with a few hundred and were very young: between seventeen and twenty. There were zazous from different classes, sexual preferences, and ethnicity. The dandyism and hedonism of the zazous was a sarcastic response to the work ethic of the nazis.

Now, here’s a very bewitching phrase,

It will put you in a daze,

To me it don’t mean a thing,

But it’s got a very peculiar swing!

Zaz-zuh-zaz-zuh-zaz, Zaz-zuh-zaz-zuh-zay.

Music, particularly jazz, was the symbol for the free world, for the American culture. The zazous were walking around with a syncopated step, to their love for swing, at all times, to exhibit to spread out. In Paris there was a lively jazz scene, which originated between the two world wars. During the Second world War were the zazous that scene in life. They welcomed black jazz musicians, who in Paris had immigrated, with open arms. Also zigeunerjazzmuzikanten, such as Django Reinhardt , were also popular.

Why the zazous such a funny name, which amounted to everything cool and swing was in the forties, it is not entirely clear. This is probably zazou of the black jazz musician Cab Calloway and his song Zah Zuh Zah. Johnny Hess, a popular musician under the zazous, sang in 1942 in his song ‘je Suis Swing’ of ‘Za, za, za, za, she would’, and broke pots.

That Zazou, he don’t care

Dark glasses, long hair

Takes his time, sneers at men

Some ugly people for revenge

The zazous expressed their individuality through their hairstyles and clothing style. In times where the government aanmaande to short hair to wear, they showed zazous their hair just grow. The men smeared a hefty dose of brilliantine, and the women chose for curls, preferably blond with a strip in a different color. The tufts of women and men went up and women appeared without a hat in public for their daring hairstyle from all sides to admire. A moustache like Clark Gable heard there for the male zazous.

That Zazou he sleeps all day

then down to Select or Le Colisée

Sips his drinks, orders more says what he thinks

And it’s a crazy war

In addition to a striking hairstyle, were the zazous also quite extravagantly dressed. The male zazou bore preferably oversized jackets, that to the knees hung down, with as much as possible pockets. That abundance of dust was a direct comment on the question of the government to be frugal with fabric. The women also wore large coats, with broad shoulders, but their skirts were remarkably short. The pattern of the zazous was the pane of glass, as we know it from houthakkershemden.

The accessories where you zazou could recognize were dark sunglasses, shoes with thick soles, red lipstick for the women and umbrellas to stroll around. Those umbrellas were a reference to the British culture, where zazous along dweepten. They use as much as possible English words to their love for British and American music press and the French patriots.

Now everybody’s under somebody’s spell

unless they’ve already gone to hell

In the streets you can hear the people say

‘That Zazou he should be locked away’

The famous French writer and feminist Simone de Beauvoir described the zazous in 1942 as follows: ‘The young men are wearing British drape suits with narrow trousers under their schapenwollenjassen and lubricate liberally brilliantine in their hair. The girls choose for jerseys with rolkragen, short A-line skirts and wooden platformschoenen; they are wearing dark sunglasses with large lenses, use a lot of make-up and bareheaded around.’

Also Christian Dior described the zazou culture in his autobiography. He admired their motives, but I know nothing of the modestijl: ‘Far too big hats, too short skirts, long jackets, heavy shoes. I have no doubt that this zazou-style its origins are found in a desire to be the conquerors and to-day, and to go against the severity of Vichy. From lack of other materials, they used feathers and veils in place of flags to pass through Paris, walking as if it were revolutionary banners. But as a fashion I found it hateful.’ Dior was previously a fan of a more classic, feminine beauty and looked down at the eccentric fashion freaks.

When the soldiers strut

all he cares about is love

When the flags are out all he cares about is love

And there’s a thin line between love and crime

The zazous found yet another way to make a revolutionary out of the corner. When Jews were forced to a yellow star to wear them on the street to recognize, sewed the zazous also the yellow stars with the words ‘Zazou’, ‘Goy’ or ‘Swing’. The young people were the punks of their generation, with patches that are so clear aversion against the ruling regime showed, that they are despised by the same regime.

Their lack of patriotism and rebellious behavior was a thorn in the eye of the conservative government. There was concern that this grouping is the rest of the youth would infect with their ‘dangerous’ behaviour. There were numerous articles published to the immorality of the zazous. They were described as werkschuw, self-centered and a danger for the French morality.

© gf

The Vichyregime feared that the zazous ensure that the young people would not contribute to the reconstruction of nationalism. One of the fascist jeugdgroeperingen Jeunesse Popular Française went in the evening on the path to zazous in the street to beat each other, and their motto “Scalp the zazous!” chant. Some zazous were rounded up and sent to labour camps. The young people have opted for a more underground lifestyle after these attacks and came together in clubs, which are located in basements is found to be, to continue to dance. The communists looked on with suspicion to the zazous, because they do not understand that they are so apathetic reacted to the war. Instead of arms, they smeared the legs and kept the zazous aggressive dance battles against soldiers and andersgezinden.

The fascinating subculture shows us today, that style is not only frivolous, but the history books can go into this as a way of resistance and hope.

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